Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams review
The Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition concludes with a cascade of golden glitter. The rich sparkles are projected on a ceiling among images of a cosmic sky and pastel dawn, casting the circle of evening wear below in soft light. It’s as Dior as Dior can be.
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, at the Victoria and Albert Museum to 14 July, features the largest House of Dior exhibition ever presented in the UK. The show examines the transformation of women’s couture fashion from 1946 until present day. It also takes influence from Christian Dior: Couturier du Reve from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, but it has added works by current creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri.
Chiuri is the first female director in the House of Dior’s 73 years. She took on the role in 2016 to continue the legacy started by Christian Dior himself. Her silk, feathered, wool and crin garments are emphasised in the section Designers for Dior, a dark room as statement-making as the designs themselves.
To reach the Chiuri display, viewers wander through a lavender installation in The Garden section of the exhibit. Shimmering purple leaves hang from the ceiling, gliding over Dior designs. Wanda Barcelona built the installation, Les Invasions, to perfectly frame the dresses, and it’s dreamlike. It’s elegant.
The magic of Dior begins much earlier, though, in 1947 when Christian Dior launched his first haute couture collection. The clothing highlighted shapely hips, narrow waistlines, eminent busts, soft shoulders and full skirts in the corolle shape. It introduced a profound change from the boxy women’s fashion that followed World War Two. It was a new look. When Carmel Snow, Harper’s Bazaar editor in chief, announced “It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian. Your dresses have such a new look,” the label stuck. Dior’s famous New Look was born.
The New Look stayed until it became a classic look for women. Designer gowns, coats and cocktail dresses move among the museum’s curving rooms and through the decades to demonstrate the House of Dior’s influence through time.
The setups often demonstrate Dior’s final products, but the ninth section of the gallery, the Ateliers, focuses on the design stage. The stark white room contains unfinished garments from floor to ceiling. It brings a sense of wonder to the onlooker because of its overwhelming, rather than wistful, appearance. It celebrates the ateliers, the workrooms where the seamstresses construct clothing, first led by Mitzah Bricard, Marguerite Carré and Raymonde Zehnacker in 1946. Women have historically filled the ateliers although men have historically dominated the House of Dior, and this room brings to life the important process of constructing clothes behind the scenes.
“Everything in this show is a couture,” Curator Oriole Cullen says. “It’s all made by hand, and I think that just looking at some of these pieces, you can see amazing embellishments on the surface, but also just considering inside those garments, the technical skill and the craftsmanship that goes into making them.”
The women’s clothing line has had a strong history with masculine leadership. The designs in the exhibit are still mostly designed by men, but female models, movie stars, upper class, royalty and musicians have worn the clothing for nearly three quarters of a century. Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams captures this reality of Dior. It also captures Dior’s elegance and spirit, from the ateliers to the showers of glitter.
by Elena K. Cruz
Exhibition tickets available here.
Gallery / Exhibition Info:
2 February – 14 July 2019
Daily: 10 a.m. – 5.45 p.m., Friday: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL
+44 (0)20 7942 2000
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